Hypertension in the Elderly

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Hypertension is a common finding in patients aged over 60 years, but the following questions need answering. How dangerous is it? Will lowering the blood pressure reduce the attendant risks? What is the 'cost' of such treatment in terms of side effects, drug-induced disease and health service finance? Two recently completed trials throw light on these problems: EWPHE (European Working Party on Hypertension in the Elderly), a European study based on hospital-clinic attenders, using a diuretic backed up with methyldopa; and HEP (randomized trial of treatment of Hypertension in Elderly Patients in Primary Care), based on general-practice screening in England and Wales using atenolol and bendrofluazide. The results of these trials were compared and the findings were broadly similar in the two studies. Some of the differences may be due to the different selection of patients. It is concluded that elderly patients with sustained blood pressures greater or equal to 170/90 mmHg would benefit from treatment by substantial reduction of stroke. Diuretics or ß-blockers, alone or together, are acceptable treatments in elderly subjects.

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